Oren J Mechanic, MD, MBA, MPH, Director of Telehealth and Medical Director at Harvard Medical School at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, is one of the 10 rising healthcare leaders featured in the Managed Healthcare Executive feature.
Oren J. Mechanic, MD, MBA, MSc in Public Health
I grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a small college town that lives and breathes basketball in the Carolinas. My ambitions and love for my country led me to eight years at the University of North Carolina for my undergraduate and medical degrees. She earned an MPH at Dartmouth and went on to train at Harvard’s Emergency Medicine Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), where she completed a fellowship in health policy and management. I practiced at BIDMC and served as a core faculty member of the Clinical Skills Assessment course at Harvard Medical School.
I currently work as the Director of Telehealth at Harvard Medical School, an organization focused on the innovative development and implementation of local telehealth that has provided more than 500,000 virtual visits since the onset of COVID-19.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in healthcare?
During college, I was a night unit clerk for the local emergency department. Clinical care quickly became a passion, and I longed to be at the bedside looking after anyone entering the emergency room. This desire eventually became a reality during medical school. There is nothing more beneficial than providing medical care to a patient at the bedside.
The inner workings of the health care system were also amazing. From pre-authorization forms to electronic health records (EHR), health care operations have seemed cumbersome. I wanted to gain a better understanding of aspects of care that are rarely taken up in medical school. As such, I pursued an MA in Public Health and an MBA and gained perspective on everything from research methodology and quality improvement models to the revenue cycle and compliance.
Ultimately, my passion for healthcare is to provide exceptional patient care and experiences; Being a Director of Operations and a Doctor gave me this opportunity.
What career achievement are you most proud of and why?
I am proud of our organization’s success in providing access to innovative care for our patients during the pandemic. We have systematically engaged stakeholders, including clinicians, patients, families, and interpreters, to launch a new virtual visit platform, all while tracking its outcomes, fairness, safety, and workflow. It was a daunting task, given the short time we had. But with foresight and preparation, the number of telehealth visits has rapidly increased to nearly 600,000. Innovation continues as we explore new ways to deliver care, such as remote patient monitoring, artificial intelligence, and asynchronous medicine.
What is the most challenging part of your current position?
Telehealth has been a beacon for accessing care to patients. Although it has been a huge success, I am concerned that the ever-changing landscape of parity and regulations may deter some of the developments in our country in the field of virtual care regulated.
What is your organization doing to address equity in health care?
One of our corporate initiatives is to reduce disparities in care. Telehealth was an opportunity to improve access. In support of our Primary Care and Seniors clinic, for example, we have implemented a patient navigator program to reach patients who have not had successful video visits. Our software has identified and sent thousands of patients to the platform before their appointments, thus increasing video visits, decreasing time spent by physician on technical troubleshooting, decreasing missed appointments and increasing access to care, especially for vulnerable and underserved patients.
If you could change one thing in US healthcare, what would it be?
Value-based healthcare should always be at the forefront of our minds for the well-being of our patients. One key to improving value is improving cost transparency. The world of drug, insurance, and reimbursement costs is unclear to most patients and physicians, making it difficult for many of us to make informed medical decisions and having ultimate effects on rising health costs and payment premiums.
How do you avoid fatigue?
For me, balance is achieved by identifying my pillars of achievement. My daughter is the apple of my eye, and spending time with her and my wife brings me so much joy. Clinical medicine is also very useful to me, especially if I can offer a method of treatment, diagnosis, reassurance and comfort to the patient. Educating and training the next generation of doctors is also very beneficial.